Thursday saw me up on the Sound of Islay on a fairly quiet , but nonetheless interesting day. The confusing picture surrounding our resident Grey lag Goose population, which appears then to be supplemented by arrivals ( or dispersals ) from elsewhere in autumn continues to be intriguing at best!! Even worse, a good proportion of our breeding birds also then move off elsewhere themselves as the early autumn insurgents move on!!
Thursday certainly added to the confusion! First came a skein of about 80 Grey lags moving high to the NORTH over Beinn Dubh . Next was a small party moving SOUTH down the centre of the Sound and bypassing Islay and Jura completely. Finally, a further party flew high to the SOUTH over the hills of the north east of Islay! Nothing remarkable you might say, except that, a few years ago, such observations would have been an absolute novelty!! Clearly, compared to recent years, more Grey lags than ever appear to be on the move in autumn in this part of Scotland and much remains to be discovered. Recently a flock of Grey lag Geese arrived together with a couple of Snow Geese. Rather than get too excited by the latter ( and I certainly think the Rarity Forms can be set aside ) the arrival provided a possible clue to the origins of the birds, which is interesting in itself. For several years a feral flock of Snow Geese has prospered on the Isle of Coll and I feel confident in suspecting this location as being that from which the birds originated. But were the Grey lags from further afield or from the neighbouring island of Tiree that has a flourishing population? More questions than answers again!!
Little else appeared to be on the move , although a couple of White-tailed Eagles moved over. Late summer and early autumn always sees numbers of Grey Herons strung out along the Sound originating from the heronry on the nearby DunLossit Estate. Groups of five or six are not exceptional and today showed a number of gatherings along the shore. More exciting was watching the groups of Red Deer across an extensive tract of hill ground. The ever vigilant stags paced back and forth with no movement of potential competitors missing their scrutiny. One large stag, with his accompanying group of hinds nearby, suddenly charged at full tilt down the hillside and engaged with a lone individual that had, deliberately or otherwise, strolled into the obvious " no go " zone. Several vicious confrontations resulted until the contender turned around and trotted off, the apparent necessary behaviour signalling a dignified withdrawal! The victor slowly went up the steep slope, back to his harem, which had remained unruffled throughout and continued their grazing unabashed. The last I saw of the contender was his movement towards a distant field full of grazing cows (!) ........ there's always one!!